Spain to approve pay TV DTT

Soccer may be part of the mix

MADRID — The Spanish government looks set to give the green light to digital terrestrial pay TV, clearing the way for on-demand DTT soccer.

A DTT forum at Madrid’s Press Association had all Spain’s main DTT operators, barring pay TV leader Sogecable, tubthumping for pay DTT in Spain, as a government spokesperson insisted that Spanish authorities were waiting for a consensus to emerge among operators and then their formal request for governmental approval of pay TV in DTT systems.

“We’re ready to request pay DTT as soon as the consensus period is over,” said La Sexta CEO Jose Miguel Contreras.

Industry sources set for August-September the presentation of an official request from operators for authorization. Approval could take three months, the sources added.

Spanish TV companies operate around 40 DTT channels, all free-to-air and free-of-charge. Penetration runs at 37%, largely driven by Spaniards’ avid purchase of flat-screen TV sets.

Although the machinery for authorization now seems to have been set in motion, the time schedule for DTT launch raises big questions.

Last week, Barcelona-based Mediapro, one of the controlling shareholders of broadcast network La Sexta, purchased pay TV rights to European Champions League soccer games over 2009-2012.

Also, Mediapro announced it now owns Spanish soccer league rights to 38 Spanish teams from the 2009-2010 season and to a dozen clubs, including soccer giant Barcelona, from 2008-2009.

It’s recently revealed it will broadcast soccer matches via a new pay TV channel it’s prepping for the next season.

If it’s unable to launch pay DTT this August, Mediapro may be forced to negotiate its soccer rights sale with bitter rival Sogecable, who sued Mediapro over its soccer rights rampage, or turn to other far smaller pay TV companies such as Telefonica’s IPTV Imagenio or cable operator ONO.

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